Locums bill keeps surgeon on road

A surgeon who totted up 12 points on her licence for a string of motoring offences has escaped a ban after a court heard her hospital trust faced paying thousands of pounds to cover her job.

Dr Catherine Parchment-Smith had been convicted for several offences which took her over the threshold which triggers an automatic six-month ban – but magistrates in Pontefract, showed leniency after they were told her bosses would have to pay for locums to cover her shifts if she was off the road.

Instead, the consultant surgeon at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, escaped with a seven-day ban and fine.

But motoring groups were unimpressed. Caroline Perry, spokeswoman for road safety charity, Brake, said: "Speeding, talking on a phone at the wheel and flouting traffic rules are extremely risky and endanger lives.

"By breaking these laws this person has shown a wilful disregard for the safety of other road users and should face a punishment which reflects the seriousness of this. Brake urges magistrates to commit to handing down appropriate punishments to drivers, including bans, which also serve to protect innocent members of the public who share the road with offenders."

An AA spokesman added: "It may have been a reasonable sentence but it was not the best."

Prosecuting, Karen Mann revealed police spotted the 44-year-old mother-of-three, of Leeds, driving across a hatched area in the city on July 8, 2010.

She told police she was in queuing traffic, was directly next to the junction exit and decided to drive across the two- to three-metre wide hatchings to get to the exit, and admitted an offence of driving on a motorway verge.

In September 2007 she was handed a fixed penalty notice after she was caught by a fixed camera committing a traffic light offence.

In April 2008 she got a fixed penalty for speeding while driving to Dewsbury and District Hospital for on-call work.

And in September 2009 she was spotted by police using a mobile phone in her car while stood at traffic lights.

She claimed the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust would face paying up to 250 an hour to locum doctors to replace her on call shift duties for trauma and general surgery, costing thousands of pounds over six months.

She told magistrates: "I've got a ten-year-old Ford Focus, I'm not a boy racer. It would be extremely expensive to arrange for locums and internal cover would be difficult to arrange. I'm just going to have to be more careful in future, even more careful than I have been. I regret it very much and won't be doing it again."

She was fined 450 and told to pay 85 costs.

Presiding magistrate Malcom Clowson said: "We have come to this decision having regard to what you have told us about the NHS trust. We have taken into consideration the cost. We are all taxpayers here and we pay enough tax. The main thing here is the pain and suffering that could occur to those involved in trauma and accidents."